800 B.C to 200 A.DThe neolithic Nok culture (named for the town where archaeological findings first were made) flourished on the Jos Plateau; the Nok people made fine terra-cotta sculptures and probably knew how to work tin and iron.
The first important centralized state to influence Nigeria was Kanem-Bornu, which probably was founded in the 8th century A.D., to the north of Lake Chad (outside modern Nigeria). In the 11th century, by which time its rulers had been converted to Islam, Kanem-Bornu expanded south of Lake Chad into present-day Nigeria, and in the late 15th century. its capital was moved there.
Beginning in the 11th cent. seven independent Hausa city-states were founded in Northern Nigeria. Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, Katsina, Rano, and Zaria. Kano and Katsina competed for the lucrative trans-Saharan trade with Kanem-Bornu, and for a time had to pay tribute to it. In the early 16th century all of Hausaland was briefly held by the Songhai Empire. However, in the late 16th century, Kanem-Bornu replaced Songhai as the leading power in Northern Nigeria, and the Hausa states regained their autonomy.
Extension of Songhai Empire in Nigeria
In southwest Nigeria two states - Oyo and Benin - had developed by the 14th century; the rulers of both states traced their origins to Ife, renowned for its naturalistic terra-cotta and brass sculpture. Benin was the leading state in the 15th century but began to decline in the 17th century, and by the 18th century Oyo controlled Yorubaland and also Dahomey. The Igbo people in the southeast lived in small village communities.
Map of Oyo and Benin Empire
In the late 15th cent. Portuguese navigators became the first Europeans to visit Nigeria. They soon began to purchase slaves and agricultural produce from coastal middlemen; the slaves had been captured further inland by the middlemen. The Portuguese were followed by British, French, and Dutch traders. Among the Igbo and Ibibio a number of city-states were established by individuals who had become wealthy by engaging in the slave trade; these included Bonny, Owome, and Okrika.
There were major internal changes in Nigeria in the 19th cent. In 1804, Uthman dan Fodio (1754–1817), a Fulani and a pious Muslim, began a holy war to reform the practice of Islam in the north. He soon conquered the Hausa city-states, but Bornu, led by Muhammad al-Kanemi (also a Muslim reformer) until 1835, maintained its independence. In 1817, Uthman dan Fodio's son, Muhammad Bello (d.1837) established a state centered at Sokoto, which controlled most of Northern Nigeria until the coming of the British (1900–1906). Under both Uthman dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello, Muslim culture, and also trade, flourished in the Fulani empire. In Bornu, Muhammad al-Kanemi was succeeded by Umar (reigned 1835–80), under whom the empire disintegrated.
Uthman Dan Fodio
1807 – 1887
In 1807, Great Britain abandoned the slave trade; however, other countries continued it until about 1875. Meanwhile, many African middlemen turned to selling palm products, which were Nigeria's chief export by the middle of the century. In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire; they lasted until 1893 (when Britain intervened), by which time the empire had disintegrated completely.
In order to stop the slave trade there, Britain annexed Lagos in 1861. In 1879, Sir George Goldie gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. Largely because of Goldie's efforts, Great Britain was able to claim S Nigeria at the Conference of Berlin held in 1884–85. In the following years, the British established their rule in SW Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897). Jaja, a leading African trader based at Opobo in the Niger delta and strongly opposed to European competition, was captured in 1887 and deported. Goldie's firm, given (1886) a British royal charter, as the Royal Niger Company, to administer the Niger River and N Nigeria, antagonized Europeans and Africans alike by its monopoly of trade on the Niger; in addition, it was not sufficiently powerful to gain effective control over N Nigeria, which was also sought by the French.
Jaja of Opobo
British Invasion of Benin Kingdom
In 1900 the Royal Niger Company's charter was revoked and British forces under Frederick Lugard began to conquer the north, taking Sokoto in 1903. By 1906, Britain controlled Nigeria, which was divided into the Colony (i.e., Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria.
Royal Niger with Nigerians
Nigerian Rebels Fight Against Royal Niger
Flag of Southern Nigeria
Flag of Northern Nigeria
In 1914 the two regions were amalgamated and the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established. The administration of Nigeria was based on a system devised by Lugard and called “indirect rule”; under this system, Britain ruled through existing political institutions rather than establishing a wholly new administrative network. In some areas (especially the southeast) new African officials (resembling the traditional rulers in other parts of the country) were set up; in most cases they were not accepted by the mass of the people and were able to rule only because British power stood behind them. All important decisions were made by the British governor, and the African rulers, partly by being associated with the colonialists, soon lost most of their traditional authority. Occasionally (as in Aba in 1929) discontent with colonial rule flared into open protest.
Nigeria's Amalgamation Map
In 1947, Great Britain promulgated a constitution that gave the traditional authorities a greater voice in national affairs. The Western-educated elite was excluded, and, led by Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi Azikiwe, its members vigorously denounced the constitution. As a result, a new constitution, providing for elected representation on a regional basis, was instituted in 1951.
Nigeria attained independence on Oct. 1, 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the NPC as prime minister and Azikiwe of the NCNC as governor-general; when Nigeria became a republic in 1963, Azikiwe was made president. The first years of independence were characterized by severe conflicts within and between regions. In the Western region, a bloc of the Action Group split off (1962) under S. I. Akintola to form the Nigerian National Democratic party (NNDP). In 1962, Obafemi Awolowo was charged for treason. In 1963 the Mid-Western region (whose population was mostly Edo) was formed from a part of the Western region. National elections late in 1964 were hotly contested, with an NPC-NNDP coalition (called the National Alliance) emerging victorious.
Queen Elizabeth and Tafawa Balewa
Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo, and Azikwe (Our Founding Fathers)
In Jan., 1966, Igbo army officers staged a successful coup, which resulted in the deaths of Federal Prime Minister Balewa, Northern Prime Minister Ahmadu Bello, and Western Prime Minister S. I. Akintola. Maj. Gen. Johnson T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, became head of a military government and suspended the national and regional constitutions; this met with a violent reaction in the north. In July, 1966, a coup led by Hausa army officers ousted Ironsi (who was killed) and placed Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon at the head of a new military regime. In Sept., 1966, many Igbo living in the north were massacred.
In May, 1967, the Eastern parliament gave Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka O. Ojukwu, the region's leader, authority to declare the region an independent republic. Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency, and, as a gesture to the Igbos, redivided Nigeria into 12 states (including one, the East-Central state, that comprised most of the Igbo people). However, on May 30, Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of Biafra, and in July fighting broke out between Biafra and Nigeria. Biafra made some advances early in the war, but soon federal forces gained the initiative. After much suffering, Biafra capitulated on Jan. 15, 1970, and the secession ended. The early 1970s were marked by reconstruction in areas that were formerly part of Biafra, by the gradual reintegration of the Igbo into national life, and by a slow return to civilian rule.
Yakubu Gowon, and Emeka Ojukwu
Nigeria joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1971.
1975 - 1979
Gowon's regime was overthrown in 1975 by Gen. Murtala Muhammad and a group of officers who pledged a return to civilian rule. In the mid-1970s plans were approved for a new capital to be built at Abuja, a move that drained the national economy. Muhammad was assassinated in an attempted coup one year after taking office and succeeded by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. In a crisis brought on by rapidly falling oil revenues, the government restricted public opposition to the regime, controlled union activity and student movements, nationalized land, and increased oil industry regulation. Nigeria sought Western support under Obasanjo while supporting African nationalist movements.
In 1979 elections were held under a new constitution, bringing Alhaji Shehu Shagari to the presidency. Relations with the United States reached a new high in 1979 with a visit by President Jimmy Carter.
Shehu Shagari, and Jimmy Carter
Nigeria wins the African Nations Cup football tournament for the first time. In 1980 the team had such players as Leyton Orient's John Chiedozie, Alloy Atuegbu, Onyedika, Segun Odegbami, Felix Owolabi, and Muda Lawal. Christian Chukwu-led Super Eagles won the Cup for the first time in Lagos.
Green Eagles of Nigeria
1983 – 1985
The Shagari Government expelled thousands of foreign laborers in 1983, citing social disturbances as the reason. The same year, Shagari was re-elected president but overthrown after only a few months in office – by Buhari and Idiagbon.
In 1985 a coup led by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida brought a new regime to power, along with the promise of a return to civilian rule. A new constitution was promulgated in 1990, which set national elections for 1992. Nigeria’s golden eaglet (Under 16) football team also won the first under-16 football world cup in 1985.
1992 – 1994
Babangida annulled the results of that presidential election, claiming fraud. A new election in 1993 ended in the apparent presidential victory of Moshood Abiola, but Babangida again alleged fraud. Soon unrest led to Babangida's resignation. Ernest Shonekan, a civilian appointed as interim leader, was forced out after three months by Gen. Sani Abacha, a long-time ally of Babangida, who became president and banned all political institutions and labor unions. In 1994, Abiola was arrested and charged with treason. Nigeria’s golden eaglet (under 17) football team won the first under-117 football world cup in Japan 1993. In 1994, Nigeria’s male senior football team (the Super Eagles) also won the 1994 Africa Nation’s Cup, and qualified for their first world cup in USA.
Golden Eaglets, 1993
Super Eagles, 1994
1995 - 1998
In 1995, Abacha extended military rule for three more years, while proposing a program for a return to civilian rule after that period; his proposal was rejected by opposition leaders, but five political parties were established in 1996. The Abacha regime drew international condemnation in late 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa, a prominent writer, and eight other human-rights activists were executed; the trial was condemned by human-rights groups and led to Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. Also in 1995, a number of army officers, including former head of state General Obasanjo, were arrested in connection with an alleged coup attempt. In 1996, Kudirat Abiola, an activist on behalf of her imprisoned husband, was murdered.
Ken Saro Wiwa
In 1996, Nigeria’s Olympic football team (dream team) won the gold medal at Atlanta Olympics in USA. The team defeat Argentina 3-2 in the finals.
Gold Winning, Atlanta 1996 Olympics Team
1998 - 1999
Abacha died suddenly in June, 1998, and was succeeded by Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, who immediately freed Obasanjo and other political prisoners. Riots followed the announcement that Abiola had also died unexpectedly in July, 1998, while in detention. Abubakar then announced an election timetable leading to a return to civilian rule within a year. All former political parties were disbanded and new ones formed. A series of local, state, and federal elections were held between Dec., 1998, and Feb., 1999, culminating in the presidential contest, won by General Obasanjo. The elections were generally deemed fair by international monitors. The People's Democratic party (PDP; the centrist party of General Obasanjo) dominated the elections; the other two leading parties were the Alliance for Democracy (a Yoruba party of the southwest, considered to be progressive), and the All People's party (a conservative party based in the north).
Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdulsalam Abubakar